Setback for right-wing Vietnamese and their flag

June 15, 2007

In recent years there's been a concerted campaign by right-wing Vietnamese exiles around the world to resurrect the defunct flag of the old Saigon regime.

Most nations, including Australia, Canada and the USA, recognise the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and its flag (a yellow star on a red background, adopted when Vietnam declared its independence in 1945) as the flag of Vietnam.

The defunct flag (yellow with three red stripes) was used by the Saigon regime created by the CIA in 1954-55 following the Communist-led Vietnamese independence movement's defeat of the French colonial army at Dien Bien Phu in early 1954. That flag became a historical relic when the Vietnamese national liberation movement completed the liberation and unification of their country in 1975.

Two years ago Toronto City Council realised they'd been flying the old defunct flag on City Hall and replaced it with Vietnam's flag, in keeping with the Canadian government's national flag protocol. This incensed the leaders of the Vietnamese exile community. After a year of unsuccessful lobbying and protests, they took the Toronto council to court.

In late April the Canadian Ontario Superior Court of Justice rejected the attempt by the Vietnamese Association of Toronto to have the defunct flag flown. The court also awarded costs of $22,000 against the association.

The right-wing Vietnamese exile groups have had some success in getting their defunct flag recognised in the USA, especially in California where the cities of Rosemead, San Jose, El Monte, South El Monte, San Diego, Westminster and Garden Grove, along with the Orange County Board of Supervisors, have recognised the yellow flag.

In Australia, there has been an ongoing campaign by the Vietnamese Community of Australia, the group dominated by right-wing exiles, to get their defunct flag recognised. In 2004 the group initially conned the Fairfield City Council in Sydney into paying for flagpoles and permanently flying the defunct flag alongside an Australian flag. The council eventually backed off, but then gave permission for the yellow flag — now described as "the freedom and heritage pennant" — to be flown three times a year in Cabravale Park.

All progressive people should be alert to and protest attempts to reimpose the defunct flag. It is an attempt to overturn two historical verdicts — that won by the people of Vietnam who finally won their freedom in 1975 after decades of wars of liberation against the Japanese, the French, the US and Australia, and that won by the Australian people who in their majority opposed the Australian government sending troops to back the US war on the Vietnamese people.

Issue